POSTED ON JULY 18, 2007:
Making sausage and trying on, or buying, vintage clothes have something in common. Don't think too hard about it.
Vintage stores are like an emporium of magical goods.
Have you noticed that more new items are being labeled "vintage"? In stores right now there are vintage t-shirts and jeans that started off as regular cotton blends, but they have gone through half a dozen processes to give it that worn-in, soft-faded look.
Of course there are also millions of items out there that resemble something from past generations, really more vintage-esqe. It's especially great when they mark up "vintage" items to prices higher than average modern clothes. What's wrong with just buying an actual vintage item?
For some people, the word "vintage" will conjure up horrible ideas. Like the word "antique", it's just a fancy term for old, previously-used items that for some can contribute to an ick factor. Previously worn clothing? No, thank you!
This attitude is all wrong. Buying something vintage is actually no worse than anything else you might purchase. Sure, it has a past, but so does everything. Think of what you're wearing right now. Your shirt was probably tried on half a dozen times by half a dozen different people.
If you're a girl and you're wearing pants, they may have been tried on by someone wearing a thong. Or, maybe nothing at all! Someone's bare ass might have previously rubbed all up and down your pants and now you are wearing them. You want to talk about ick, think of trying on swimsuits--now that is gross.
I'm not trying to be vulgar or to prevent you from entering a fitting room ever again; it's just nonsense to believe that new clothes are somehow better than vintage. Many vintage items have been stored away in people's closets for years without being worn or even seeing the light of day. They are fresher than most new items in stores.
This is true in more than one way. Vintage is authentic and truly fresher than the latest items off the runway or in the stores. Whatever look is being pulled from the past decades is really a cheap imitation. Vintage is the real deal. This realness can also translate into big bucks. I've visited vintage shops in Los Angeles with mediocre products at outrageous prices. Tulsa's vintage stores have reasonable prices on looks that span the decades. So then, what do you look for?
For the shopper with trepidation, start with something easy, like t-shirts. Modern t-shirts don't have the stiff, thick fabric like they used to because companies have started making t-shirts that are already as soft as older ones. That's one of the vintage t-shirts appeal, but the real gem of the vintage tee is the graphic. You can find great band shirts of yesteryear, clever sayings and more.
While technically you can find this in any store, vintage t-shirts are one of a kind. It's doubtful that you will find two of the same old school t-shirt. This makes your find all that more rewarding-no chance of seeing someone else wearing it.
The t-shirt might be as far as some people will be willing to take it in vintage wear, but for a courageous person with a trained eye, look for great classic pieces.
Cardigans are a wardrobe staple and they weren't made any better than in the 1950s. There are cashmere options out there with fantastic detailing, though you might opt to wear it with a cami and some jeans rather than a poodle skirt and saddle shoes.
You can also find suits that look like they came straight off the back of a Kennedy in 1960. The modern way to pull off these skirts and jackets is to break them up; wear the skirt with a different top, throw on the jacket with some crisp trousers.
But vintage isn't all about a prim and proper look. You'll also find items covered in the most fantastic prints. Dresses, pants, and tops will be found in fun, unique colors and shapes as well.
You don't have to have lived through the '60s, '70s and '80s to know that "bold" was the word. But just as everything new shouldn't be worn, everything old shouldn't be brought back. Colors and patterns that look like they were created while someone was on acid are okay; denims that were dipped in acid are bad. The idea is to make these old looks appear new, not outdated.
But shoes never go out of style and because of that they are also a fantastic vintage find. That is, if you're lucky enough to have small feet. People from the past apparently had absurdly small feet, so if you were blessed with narrow feet in size seven or smaller, you'll have a whole rack for the looking; any feet larger may want to just keep walking.
There is a variety of classic looks you can find in vintage shoe wear from the 1920s t-straps to 1930s peep toe pumps. There's also an array of boots to be found from the 1970s and '80s as well as platforms more fun than anything you'll find in stores right now.
Whatever decade they come from, there are an assortment of looks to be found. The most abundant shoe selections are made of leather with heels that are much sturdier than the stilettos of today--but that doesn't necessarily spell out comfort. While my wide feet have prevented a personal experience with vintage shoes, I have a friend who recommends investing in some kind of shoe cushioning. The duel concept of women's fashion and comfort is a relatively modern idea, including shoes.
Vintage stores are like an emporium of magical goods. There are great handbags, worn-in faded jeans, and jewelry that are both costume and real. There are beautiful coats in the winter, including (egad!) fur. There's big belt buckles and dainty gloves. Its variety is all the more reason to visit.
A vintage item may look like a gem at first glance, but always thoroughly check over anything you intend to purchase. Typically, vintage items have been previously scanned over, but it's best to double check because some stores have a no-return policy. You don't want to go home with something only to discover it's got a stain or a hole and you can't take it back.
Even if you aren't a capable seamstress, things like missing buttons or broken seams and zippers can be easily repaired for minimal cost, but stains, discoloration or worn out fabric are more difficult to fix and should factor into the decision to buy.
So the next time you're in an overpriced store, trying on another pair of pants, remember how many people have tried those pants on. Remember how many people already own them and how unoriginal they are. Then make your way to a vintage store where the things may have already been worn, but at least they aren't being worn by everyone now.
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